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Singakwenza: "We can do it!" - a training program enhancing the education of children whilst simultaneously helping the environment

By Singakwenza

Singakwenza, meaning “We can do it!”, is a non-profit organization which focuses on Early Childhood Education. With an emphasis on long-term sustainability, Singakwenza provides grassroots training for practitioners, parents, and caregivers in economically disadvantaged communities to enable them to provide fun, educational activities for their young children.

These activities develop, through play, the foundational skills for learning, supported by educational resources that are handmade solely from recycling. Once the adults have been trained to provide daily stimulation for their young children, they are able to make all their own resources using household packaging that usually ends up in landfill, rivers, and the ocean.

Our program works to support and empower caregivers to create safe, loving, and sustainable learning spaces for children and to upskill them with the building blocks that underwrite and facilitate children’s ability to learn through play, know love, and develop resilience. In so doing, children are empowered to reach their full potential and grow themselves out of poverty.

Through the model of mentoring, and creating resources from recycling, access to learning and education can be provided without the need for expensive child-care facilities. A rope made of bread bags is as effective at developing gross motors skills as a store-bought skipping rope. This is the heart behind the approach of our program.

This program focuses on training practitioners on-site at their crèches and helps to transform them from babysitters to facilitators who understand, and can implement, purposeful play activities every day. Trainers spend one day a week in each crèche, teaching and mentoring practitioners on how to educate the children in their care using resources made from recycling.

These trainers work with their practitioners every week for a minimum of two years, guiding, modelling and encouraging them towards a daily structured and educational program that is fun and engaging. They encourage practitioners to grow their crèches not only into centres where every child has the opportunity to develop their potential, but also into sustainable businesses so that they can continue independently once they leave.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this program, Singakwenza recently used a tool called the ELOM (Early Learning Outcome Measure). The ELOM is a South African based assessment tool that accurately measures a range of developmental outcomes in young children and

provides an indication of the quality of the early learning environment in home and program settings. The assessment tool takes into account diverse socio-economic backgrounds and is therefore a reliable measure of South African children’s development.

The results of the ELOM were interpreted by DataDrive2030. According to the data, 48% of children were “falling far behind”, 17% were “falling behind” and only 35% were “on track” before entering the program. By the end of the year, the number of children on track had increased to 68%, with 27% now having moved to “falling behind”, whilst the number of children “falling far behind” dropped dramatically to only 5%.

The study was also able to estimate the program effect verses the natural maturation effect that would be expected as the children naturally aged. The study confirmed that the program overall had a “large effect” (using Cohen’s D to establish effect size) on the outcome of the children’s results which is significant news for the Singakwenza team!

Engaging in the evaluation process has assisted the team behind the program in understanding further the areas that the program can focus on, with the goal of helping the last 32% of children to successfully reach “on track” status. The study has provided wonderful affirmation for the team that quality education can be provided through mentorship and without expensive resources!


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